Friday, 19 February 2010

Did I mention...

...that I'm pregnant? In fact, I'm just about half way through, which seems like the right time to start blogging about it, as I start to assimilate to my ever-changing condition!

Been thinking recently that pregnancy reminds me a lot of being engaged.
- You begin with a burst of euphoria between the two of you (if lucky like me, that is)
- Then there is quite likely to be a slow phase where at some point you are scared / appalled / hormonally challenged / feel that you have signed your life away and wish to act like a teenager
- It's a lot of fun telling your close friends and family
- You settle (again, if lucky like me) into a warm glow of contentedness and anticipation
- Which can be expected in turn to give way to a manic few months of planning, followed by a joyous (you hope) but hectic occasion and the start of a new phase of your existence...

At any rate, I prefer that metaphor to my early conviction that pregnancy is a nine month illness followed by a dangerous operation...and I didn't even suffer from morning sickness! Have now got used to the fact that nothing, but nothing in my body works the way I am used to, and am mostly glowing. As a control freak and rampant individualist, I did rather dread the process of pregnancy, but find I am delighted to have been taken over by my very own little alien - must be the hormones, long may these ones keep flowing.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Always on?

Back at work yesterday, then the snow struck and I have decided to take today as more leave.
Being back, and now at home but feeling I should be productive, has made me realise the guilty pleasure I took over Christmas and New Year in totally ignoring all my emails, facebook etc.

Why guilty? Because I love the internet. I work with a website for god's sake. I love blogging, I love keeping up with a wider circle of friends easily through blogs, facebook and twitter. I love online shopping. Oh, and I really don't like it when OTHER people ignore the emails I send them...

After a day of emails at work, it's understandable if I don't embrace my computer in the evening. But why the urge to hibernate away from the lot just when I am free to revel in it? I suspect it's the pressure of being 'always on', always just checking. For a myers-briggs introvert like myself it becomes wearing, the sense of the phone or laptop practically nudging my elbow every other minute. Some would say online is pretty solitary, but not for me. Good to be back with the blog, however!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Avatar 3D

Yes those who carp about the story are absolutely correct - it's predictable, two-dimensional and probably objectionable in some of its detail. But that is to miss the point on several levels. First, of course, no one is going to see Avatar for the story, but for the blindingly stupendous, beautiful effects and the blend of real and CG. And also, to my mind, it's not about the story but it IS about the fable. This is not, in any traditional sense, a plot-driven film. But the story is quite deliberately a fable or parable - and guess what, they are almost always simplistic, in order to get a message across.

Anyway, what I mostly take from it is confirmation of my long held belief that people would be better with tails...

The Misanthrope

Had a great evening yesterday at The Misanthrope. Although it's on at the Comedy Theatre and billed at such, it's very much witty - sometimes laugh out loud witty - but not comic. In fact if anything it's rather tragic.

Damian Lewis is really excellent in the title role, confirming my opinion from seeing him on TV - it's nice to see Keira Knightley graciously and successfully play second fiddle, with a very convincing American accent. The verse is very successfully translated to English and to a modern context - it takes a few lines to get used to but is never heavy-handed. The play is very pretty to look at, very entertaining and also gives plenty of food for thought about all kinds of lovely philosophical and linguistic issues around relativism, postmodernism and the fine line between tact and hypocrisy.

The ending, where Jenny (Keira) sees her media world in all its hypocritical, savage lack of support and yet still chooses it over Alceste (Damian) has the ring of absolute truth. And it's particularly great that although one's sympathies are generally with Alceste, he is very far from perfect, showing the ugly side of his arguments in mistrust and possessiveness, as well as a positively irritating lack of pragmatism or compromise. Satisfying on all levels.

A brief lapse into pedantry

When you order your coffee, people, it's eSpresso, not eXpresso!!!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Hoovering the Roof

So this week I can finally hold in my carefully washed hands an actual, published book featuring my work alongside that of the wonderful writers of the East Dulwich Writers' Group. SO EXCITING! I can safely say from personal experience that the anthology
- looks lovely on the shelf
- has a very charming cover as above (and a very superior back cover also with blurb by yours truly)
- really does include something for everyone and is perfect for reading in small bursts while commuting and the like.

I also gave my first public reading at our launch event at The Bookseller Crow on the Hill, which was nerve-wracking but apparently I did succeed in reading s-l-o-w-l-y which is very difficult and very important, especially for a poem.

For further information about the group and sales of this magnificent volume visit the EDWG website .

Thursday, 5 November 2009

This is it

I probably never would have chosen to see 'This is it', but went with my friend to a mother and baby screening. It's a good film to watch around babies - no plot to follow and some of them at least seem to enjoy the music.

Personally, I've always been in two minds about Michael Jackson. On the one hand, I don't believe he ever hurt a child. On the other, I was definitely on the Jarvis Cocker side of the whole Brit Awards debacle. But this film is genuinely special.

There's the poignantly double-edged title (of the planned tour & the film, echoed in the words of one of the dancers at the beginning - 'I was looking for something, to give meaning to my life - this is it').

The mini-interviews with dancers and musicians give a real sense of excitement at performing with their hero - it's wonderful to see them whooping and applauding Michael's rehearsals, and you wonder what has become of them since it all ended so abrubtly.

But most importantly, it is truly a pleasure to see someone who so often seemed out of place in the world working in his natural element. The music and video backdrops are sensational. I still loathe 'earthsong' (cos big music tours are so, er, eco-friendly? but maybe Michael was rich enough to offset it all...), but who can resist the classics - personal favourites are 'beat it', 'billie jean' and 'smooth criminal'. It would have been a great tour - but the film gives even more, as it shows Jackson the professional, a musical perfectionist with confidence in his perfomance and opinions, working behind the scenes to ensure the music 'nourishes', 'sizzles' and is 'drenched in moonlight' - not to mention being in the right key, the right tempo and so on. This is surely the way to remember him.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

And finally for today - a note to drivers

I applaud the fact that drivers sometimes stop for me when they don't have to, really I do. Notably when the traffic is so busy that I would never get across otherwise. Or when I am obviously hanging off the edge of the kerb in a tearing hurry.

BUT... when I am stood stock still at a junction, a safe distance from the kerb, and there are few or no cars behind yours, and you are slowing down but you'd have to anyway for the junction, and you might be saying something or waving your arms at me but you're behind a window that is catching the rain or the sun or whatever, and your intentions are therefore very very hard to read... I would really rather you just carried on driving and let me cross the road in peace once you have gone by. Sorry.

This is probably all wrong but...

...after seeing the Anish Kapoor exhibition, I hastened next door to Laduree for some macaroons. Their shop is sculptural - the entire (tiny) place is coated in thickly spread golden splodges and squirls. Which got me thinking about the macaroons themselves.

These are not just food (or even M&S food - a category unto itself). Yes, they have some calories and they taste delicious, but they are clearly not designed for survival or nutrition. Nourishment, perhaps, taken in the widest sense and considering their sculptural qualities.

There are the colours, and the way those fade to paler or darker fillings. There are the colours that are appropriate to the flavour (rich golden mango, sadly a summer edition now passed), the colours that are at least traditional to the flavour (green pistachio), and the colours that are just a little post-modern - date and fig macaroons are an appealing purply pink which is only tangentially related to their content.

Then there is the texture. Just to look at, the tactile qualities of biting one of these are apparent. They have crispy, transparent, fragile edges. The centres are just visible, soft and shiny and waiting to be discovered.

OK, it's no good, I have to go and have tea and a macaroon...

Anish Kapoor

Having seen only two Anish Kapoor sculptures before (that I can remember), but liked both a lot, I went to the Royal Academy exhibition. There is something very mentally spacious about going to an exhibition where there are really only seven or eight exhibits, albeit some of them groups of pieces.

Working from my least favourite upwards, and with almost no reference to the proper names of the pieces nor to any proper artistic analysis:

1. Extruded concrete - no, I am just not feeling it. Too scatological. Lacking the visual and tactile pleasures of the other work somehow. Though there are a few small pieces that have fallen off, which you might be tempted to pick up if the guards aren't watching. No-one will believe you if you try to sell them on ebay though, they just don't look impressive.

2. Fibreglass 'marble' coils with shiny red trumpet / vulva - mildly intriguing, but not very.

3. Hall of mirrors. Ok they don't call it that, but that's what it is - very shiny and nicely done. Not nearly as much fun as the stack of mirrored balls in the courtyard which have sky and buildings to play with.

4. Crimson wax - monumental block which moves along a track. carving itself out against the arches of three galleries, + the cannon which shoots cyclinders of the same wax through a doorway every 20 minutes. It is great to have something in a gallery that moves and that you can return to and see in a different way each time. And these are undeniably powerful pieces. After seeing the cannon shoot, people make pointless comments like 'Well, there you go' and 'We've seen the splodging machine now we can move on'. It is obvious that this is because at least some of them are deeply unsettled.
The wax isn't actually like anything in the body as such, but is undeniably visceral when splattered or spread. Whether by accident or design, the person 'firing' the cannon when I was there was profoundly androgynous, dressed in overalls with a poker face, very pale and thin. This added somehow to the sense of violence. Even so, I found the moving block (about the size of a double decker bus - ish) harder to take. There is something about the way it completely moulds onto the arches as it moves through them which makes it harder to breathe, and makes me want to consume things that are good for my arteries. It has all the uneasiness of seeing inside someone, or of deep sea creatures, writ large.

5. The hive - rusting (or rust-coloured, though smooth) monumental shape, open at one end to allow a glimpse of the enclosed space at the other. Everything about this was pleasing to me - scale, tactile appearance, the lines that follow its curves where it has been made (whereas many of Kapoor's sculptures have had the signs of making deliberately removed), the fact that it was made in a shipyard, the fact that it is suggestive without being red! It is everything that number 2 was not.

6. Yellow - a giant, sunny, optical illusion. I have a deep desire to climb inside it.

7. The room of pregnancy and powder paint - the paint is pleasing, the way it gives a saturated, soft colour. The pregnant wall, however, is by far the best thing in the whole show (bit of a shame this is actually the first room). You barely notice it at first, in a room full of colourful things. You look at it from the side, and it's a clearly delineated bulge, full of promise. You look from the front, about a meter away, and you just can't see anything properly at all. It is utterly mysterious. Somehow, the curve and the shadow mean that you can't focus on the texture of the white wall itself, you just get a kind of blurry glow. I could look at it all day, except it makes my eyes go funny.